Jack Black Elevates Netflix’s Wild, Uneven ‘The Polka King’

VANAPHASE™ the Vanadium powerhouse!

The Polka King

Not too long ago, the term Ponzi scheme wasn’t familiar to most households, but all that changed when Bernie Madoff raked in billions by defrauding all sorts of rich and famous people. The idea behind a Ponzi scheme is simple: Play upon people’s greed by promising astounding profits on investments only to keep the money. One of the more unusual Ponzi schemes in history didn’t rely on bilking the rich and powerful, but instead took place in Pennsylvania with a Polish immigrant defrauding numerous elderly investors in the ‘90s. But it wasn’t just any Polish immigrant who ran this massive machine of fraud, it was Jan Lewan, the “King of Pennsylvania Polka.” Now this unbelievable true story, which was the subject of the documentary The Man Who Would Be Polka King, is the inspiration for The Polka King, the new comedy from the directing duo of Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky (Directors Guild of America rules dictated that Forbes be the sole credited director).

When we first encounter Jan Lewan (Jack Black) he’s on stage in a gaudy, shiny costume, entertaining the elderly of Polish descent with his lively oom-pah music. Jan is working tirelessly for his slice of the American Dream, working various jobs in the day to support his wife, Marla (Jenny Slate), and young son while performing at night with his trusted collaborator Mickey (Jason Schwartzman). Frustrated with the lack of money coming in from the band, Mickey is ready to quit when the ambitious Jan pleads with him to stay. It’s then that Jan conceives an idea to take investments on his musical career, and the popular polka king has no problem securing funding from grey-haired residents of the area, striking the deals in the back of his Polish knick-knack shop which will soon serve as a front for his illicit business.

Even though The Polka King and its script by Forbes and Wolodarsky aims for comedic overtones, the joking elements of the film don’t always land. Despite that, the writing-directing duo present the story with enough visual gusto that it’s always captivating even if you’re not laughing all the way through. What really keeps The Polka King consistently watchable is the performance by Jack Black, who inflects a Polish accent and brings so much energy to his performance that he almost singlehandedly elevates the film in its weaker spots. Black’s musical talents are also on display as he belts out lively versions of the polka hits that the real life Lewan brought to the stage.

As happens in these stranger than fiction true crime stories, Jan Lewan eventually finds himself in over his head. At first, he’s investigated by Ron Edwards (J.B. Smoove), an SEC officer who pulls back his case after Lewan claims to have stopped taking investments. As the SEC backs off, Lewan’s mother-in-law (Jacki Weaver) has mounting suspicions about her son-in-law, and his increasingly secretive behavior on top of a lavish lifestyle supposedly funded by the profits of his dead Polish trinket store only increases her suspicions. Of course, Jan is in too deep to turn back despite the mounting pressures enveloping his life. And yet Jan still orchestrates a travel group of his dedicated fans, taking them to Europe for a meeting with Pope John Paul II. (The photo of the actual meeting appears in the end credits.) Jan hires a videographer to document his performances so he can sell the tapes at a later date. All the while, Marla grows tired of being known as merely the wife of the “Pennsylvania Polka King” and restarts her career in beauty pageants, only to have her victory rescinded in the wake of a bribery scandal.

The Polka King is an uneven but entertaining film. When it’s not work, though, there’s an energy from the cast and crew that prevent the film from ever becoming dull. Jack Black gives a fantastic performance that plays to his strengths as a musician and comedic actor, something he really hasn’t had a chance to do in a movie since 2011’s Bernie. Truth is truly stranger than fiction in this unbelievable true story that plays out like a dark, twisted version of the American Dream.

The Polka King
  • Overall Score
3

Summary

A prime example of truth being stranger than fiction, The Polka King tells the wild story of Jan Lewan, the “Pennsylvania Polka King,” who ran a Ponzi scheme in the ’90s. The Polka King is elevated by a captivating, energetic performance by Jack Black that overshadows some of the film’s weaker elements.

YogaOutlet.com

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘I Feel Bad,’ Episode Two is Better than the Pilot (Minimal Spoilers)

About half an hour ago, I let loose my frustrations on...

‘I Feel Bad’ Continues the Whitewashing of Asian Cultures

I Feel Bad made me feel awful as yet another show...

Cabin Boy Blu-ray
Fancy Lads Rejoice! ‘Cabin Boy’ is Finally on Blu-ray

Chris Elliot is nobody’s idea of a leading man, but for...

Event News Event Reviews
viz media
Have no Fear, for Viz Media is Here! – SDCC 2018

I grew up reading more manga than I did American comics....

Transformers: The Movie Theatrical Debut
32 Years Ago Today, Was The Transformers: The Movie Theatrical Debut

On this day, 32 years ago, the world was graced with The...

Blizzard SDCC 2018
Blizzard SDCC 2018 – Blizzard Entertainment Brings Massive Lineup to SDCC

Blizzard in SDCC 2018 – Blizzard Entertainment brings Overwatch, StarCraft, and...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Exclusive Track Premiere from Madden NFL 19!

(July 26, 2018 – Los Angeles, CA) – Lakeshore Records today...

Star Ocean Anamnesis
8.0/10
The Most Intuitively Fun Gameplay of Any Mobile RPG – Star Ocean Anamnesis Review

Star Ocean Anamnesis is hands down the most fun and intuitive gameplay...

Ghostbusters World
Strap On Your Jumpsuits and Proton Packs – Ghostbusters World First Look

Ghostbusters World First Look at SDCC2018 – When someone asks you if...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Five Questions for Gary Morgenstein About ‘A Mound Over Hell’

Gary Morgenstein is a journalist, public relations expert and author with...

Ralph Breaks the Internet Graphic Novel
Dark Horse Disney Ralph Breaks the Internet Graphic Novel Revealed

Dark Horse reveals new original Disney Ralph Breaks the Internet Graphic...

black torch
Black Torch – New Supernatural, Action Manga from Viz Media

VIZ Media releases a new, supernatural story with the release of...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
DC Collectibles Brings Batman Dark Nights: Metal to Life

Straight from the pages of the bestselling DARK NIGHTS: METAL comics series comes...

pix
Make Better PIX this Year with PIX Smart Animative Backpack

Start the school year off by making better life PIX, like picking up...

Chuck Billy of Testament Talks About His Signature Vaporizer

Chuck Billy of Testament talks about, “The Chief” his signature vaporizer,...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Bellator Hawaii to be Exlusively Aired on DAZN

From Bellator MMA – LOS ANGELES – The Neal S. Blaisdell Arena...

USA Boxing’s 1st West Coast Alumni Association Comes to Hollywood

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (September 11, 2018) – The stars will be...

Trifecta/UFC Kick-off Golden Ticket Giveaway for Sold Out UFC 229 Khabib vs. McGregor Epic VIP Experience

Running from today, September 11th through September 16th, the first 250 orders...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents Harry Potter and the Cat Conjuring Pt3

Pt 3 of the epic non-canonical Harry Potter and the Cat...

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Cat Conjuring pt 2

Pt 2 in the epic non-canonical adventure of Harry Potter and...

Heroes of the Grid
Go Go Back Renegade Studio’s Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid!

With a little less than 3 days left in their campaign, Power...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Coastal Commoners Ep 2 Who’s Better Chris Jericho or Ric Flair and The Black Superman ‘Controversy’

This week Gary and R.C. respectfully disagree on who the better...

Coastal Commoners Ep 1 Rosh Hashanah and the Assyrian/Jewish Connection

Editor’s Note: The views of Mr. Morgenstein and Mr. Samo do...

Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming. Related

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Deadpool 2 Vinyl Giveaway!

We are giving away a copy of Deadpool 2 Score Soundtrack on...

Crisis on Earth-X Soundtrack
Blake Neely Behind-the-Scenes Recording of Crisis on Earth-X Soundtrack

Check out this exclusive Behind-The-Scenes video with Blake Neely as he...

Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

%d bloggers like this: